GOP Senate challenger ties Democratic incumbent Shaheen to AOC

A Republican candidate hoping to unseat Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen next year in the Granite State tied the two-term incumbent to progressive firebrand freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and railed against the senator for failing to vote against the Green New Deal.

The candidate, former state House of Representatives Speaker Bill O’Brien, on Tuesday formally launched his campaign for the Republican Senate nomination by arguing that “Jeanne Shaheen is not putting New Hampshire first. She’s not putting you first. She’s putting Washington big government and those seeking the path to socialism first.”

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New Hampshire, viewed by some as a key battleground state, saw extremely competitive Senate races in the 2014 and 2016 cycles. The state didn’t have a Senate election in 2018. Republicans see Shaheen’s seat as a potential pickup as they mostly play defense in 2020 with a 53-47 majority in the chamber.

O’Brien, a well known figure in the Granite State thanks to his tumultuous 2010-2012 tenure as speaker -- when he forced through massive budget cuts his supporters love and his opponents decried -- spent most of his speech targeting Shaheen, a popular former governor.

“Jeanne Shaheen has proven she’s captive of a big government pushing Washington control. She’s left New Hampshire behind,” he argued.

O’Brien also criticized Shaheen for her vote in support for the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare. And he slammed her for lacking courage by voting ‘present’ on the ‘Green New Deal,’ the sweeping climate change proposal that’s become a litmus test for the progressive base of the Democratic Party.

“She didn’t put New Hampshire first. She ran away. She refused to vote no,” he charged.

O’Brien claimed “that Shaheen’s putting Washington big government first. Perhaps she thinks Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders are New Hampshire, because that’s who she’s putting first.”

Longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley, pointing to O’Brien’s tenure as speaker, labeled him a “far-right extremist.”

And Buckley tied him to Republican President Trump, arguing that "New Hampshire voters remember Bill O'Brien was a mirror image of Donald Trump before Trump ever ran for president. In office, they both made sabotaging the Affordable Care Act, defunding Planned Parenthood and undermining voting rights their top priorities."

O’Brien, who was a top Granite State supporter for conservative Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in the 2016 GOP first-in-the-nation presidential primary, told  Fox News, “I’m a big fan of Donald Trump.”

“I don’t think anyone who cares about this country’s prosperity, who cares about deregulating industry, can do anything other than look at what Donald Trump has done and say I’m a supporter."

O’Brien’s announcement comes a month after retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, a Laconia native who moved back to New Hampshire after retirement, launched a Republican bid for the Senate. A third candidate is also likely to jump into the race for the GOP nomination.